If you’re reading this, you, like us, are an endangered species. The walls are closing in on driving enthusiasts on every side, with every effort being made to thin our ranks.
One of the leading causes of extinction is habitat destruction; countless roads around the country have had speed limits slashed from 100 to 80 or even 60km/h, making yesterday’s cautious motorist today’s miscreant.
Even worse, some manufacturers are hellbent on making drivers redundant altogether. The timeline remains unclear and the challenges are many, but like it or not, autonomous cars are coming, the process accelerated by the race to be first with this pioneering technology. They’ll save our lives, but they’ll also take our freedom.
Thankfully, some carmakers are still on the side of the enthusiast and that’s cause for celebration.
The five disparate cars gathered here are linked by a common goal: the desire to entertain the driver to the fullest extent. Market and segment positioning dictates each go about it a different way and over the coming pages you’ll read about these differing approaches.
This is not a comparison test – though perhaps one car will achieve its goal more successfully than the others – but a chance to enjoy these machines while we still can on one of Victoria’s best driving roads, the hillclimb to the Lake Mountain Alpine Resort.
Representing the elite end of town is the Porsche 911 GT3 Touring. Even amongst its driver-focused siblings, the Touring prioritises fun above all else. Essentially a 911 R by another name, the Touring forgoes the conspicuous wings typical of the GT3, but retains the razor-sharp handling and screaming atmo engine. Oh, did we mention it only comes in manual?
The same is true of the Peugeot 208 GTi Edition Definitive. As the name suggests, this is the final version of the feisty Pug, which has enjoyed a healthy fettling from Peugeot Sport consisting of more power, a limited-slip diff, revised suspension and more. It may sit at the other end of the price scale to the GT3, but it’s equally hardcore in its own way.
When it comes to hardcore, however, Lotus almost needs its own sealed section. The Elise may have grown slightly longer, wider and heavier over the past two decades, but at 904kg it’s still an automotive waif with an interior as Spartan as the front garden of Troy. In Sprint 220 guise it’s even lighter, yet still motivated by a supercharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder.
Aiming to prove that power isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for a good time is the Mazda MX-5, here in back-to-basics, updated 1.5-litre guise. While the substantial revisions to the 2.0-litre captured all the headlines, its little brother enjoys an extra 1kW/2Nm (steady on!) and, more importantly, telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel, improving driver comfort.
But if it’s comfort you want, step inside the BMW M3 CS and enjoy its heated leather seats. Despite the inclusion of a few luxuries, the CS clearly states its intent with staggered wheels wrapped in hardcore Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.
Shining brightly behind those rims on this example are golden calipers, signifying carbon-ceramic brakes. Add to this a pared-back interior and extra grunt from the 3.0-litre twin-turbo six and this is as focused as four-doors get.
Enough talk, let’s drive.
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